Pasta and meatballs!

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October 22, 2014 by NS

I like pasta. Yesterday I decided to make meatball sauce to have with pasta. I really like working with ground meat, because there’s so much you can do! I’ve written up a first draft of a page about meatball recipes, which is over in the Cooking section. Here’s the recipe I ended up making last night:

Meatballs:
2/3lb ground beef
1/3 cup bread crumbs
3 tbsp red wine
1 egg
3 cloves finely chopped garlic*
1 + 2 tbsp olive oil
1 sprig (about 1 tbsp) finely chopped cilantro
spices as desired

Originally I didn’t want to put bread crumbs in, because it takes a while to make bread crumbs, and the meatballs have a different texture if you do this. But then I was reading recipes online and I liked the idea of putting red wine in, and if you want to put some liquid into your meatballs, you need to add bread crumbs to help absorb it. If you’re adding stuff into your meatballs, the egg also helps hold everything together. The proportions are really flexible with this kind of recipe, but make sure you don’t put in too much of the bread crumbs, or else your meatballs will fall apart.

I used some ground piment d’Espelette and salt and pepper as spices. I put the garlic on the bread when I baked it, but you could also just put fresh garlic into the meatballs. It’s easiest to use a food processor to chop all your non-meat ingredients – I don’t like meatballs that have big chunks of other stuff in them, but doing it by hand works fine too.

After mixing everything together, I cooked the meatballs in 2 tbsp of olive oil until they were brown all around and looked like they wouldn’t fall apart (but not cooked through). This took about 5 minutes of active cooking as I had to roll the meatballs around to brown them evenly. Then I set them aside and made the sauce.

Sauce:
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 fresh tomato
1lb bag of fresh spinach
10 leaves fresh basil
1 carrot, thinly sliced
3 tbsp olive oil
meatballs as above
spices as desired

I put the tomatoes and carrot and olive oil and spices into the saucepan on medium high heat and cooked for about 15 minutes until the carrots were starting to get soft and the fresh tomato was pretty much indistinguishable from the chopped tomato. I had to add some water since I had the heat too high in the beginning and a lot of the liquid from the tomatoes boiled off. You have to manage the water content so that the sauce isn’t too watery at the end, but also so that you don’t burn it. The spices I used were salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, and ground piment d’Espelette.

You don’t want to put the basil and spinach in until the end when you are almost ready to serve. For the large amount of leaves I put in, it took about 5 more minutes after I added the leaves for the sauce to be ready. I added the meatballs at the same time as the spinach and basil and turned the heat down.

Putting a lid on is helpful. The sauce splatters a lot, and also the spinach cooks faster and more evenly if you put a lid on the pan. If you put a lid on, note that the boiling water mostly drips back down rather than escaping as steam, so you won’t need to add more water.

This recipe probably serves 4. I made 1lb of pasta which was a bit too much pasta for this quantity of sauce. You can easily increase the volume of sauce by adding more tomato. I think if you want more volume of sauce, it’s best to add more tomato, rather than adding more spinach and carrot. The proportion of meatballs to sauce in this recipe is pretty good, though 2/3lb meat for 4 people is not that much so you might want to do more if you have 4 hungry carnivores. You can also add more meat to the meatball recipe without increasing anything else (except seasonings) if you want a heavier, more protein-filled meal. The bread crumbs are only necessary for absorbing the wine.

As described above, the meatballs and sauce both turned out to be really good. I think I’ll try to rewrite these in a more general fashion, so as to explain how to come up with your own meatball or sauce recipe on the fly as I did, or to fit your particular occasion.

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